Free Tours Offered by the Central Park Conservancy
The Central Park Conservancy regularly offers free guided walking tours of Central Park. No pre-registration is required for the free tours, just show up in the specified meet-up location at the specified start time.
The Central Park Conservancy is the organization responsible for keeping Central Park the beautiful place to visit that it is today. They’re a not-for-profit organization that has contracted with New York City since the 1980s to manage the park. That’s a big job, because Central Park in huge, as in 843 acres huge!
Because the park is so large, it’s fairly easy to get yourself turned around and a little lost without a guide. The folks with Central Park Conservancy probably know the park better than anyone else, making them a great choice for guided tours. Conservancy tour guides give both free and paid tours. To see the full list of tours available, please visit the Central Park Conservancy website.
Free Central Park Tours
The Southern Welcome Tour – An introductory tour of the southern portion of the park including Grand Army Plaza, the Chess and Checkers House, Wollman Rink, Gapstow Bridge, The Pond, and the Dairy Visitor Center.
Mid-Park Welcome Tour – An introductory tour of the middle portion of the park including the Lake, Belvadere Castle, the Ramble, Oak Bridge at Bank Rock Bay, and Balcony Bridge.
Northern Welcome Tour – An Introductory tour of the northern portion of the park including Harlem Meer, the Conservatory Garden, and the North Woods.
Secrets of the Southwest Park – Explore and learn little-known facts about one of the most-visited sections of the park. Highlights include the Maine Monument, the Children’s District, Sheep Meadow, Tavern on the Green, and Strawberry Fields.
Heart of the Park Tour – This tour through the middle of the park includes Bethesda Fountain, Cherry Hill, The Lake, Bethesda Terrace, Bow Bridge, Conservatory Water, Loeb Boathouse, and Strawberry Fields.
Visit the tours section of the Central Park Conservancy’s website for a current list of available tours.
The free tours last 60 to 90 minutes and start at various meeting places throughout the park. Check the individual tour descriptions and schedule for tour length and meeting places.
Tours take place rain or shine, except in extreme weather conditions (heavy rain, sustained winds of 30 mph or more, heavy snowstorms, wind chill below 25 degrees F, or heat index above 95 degrees F. Cancellations will be noted on the online calendar at the Conservancy’s website, so if the weather seems iffy, check there.
Free Self-Guided Tours
If you’d rather explore on your own, the Conservancy has a nice selection of self-guided walking tours available for free download in PDF format. Tours available for download include a North End Tour, Mid-Park Tour, South End Tour, and Woodland Tour, plus a Monthly Mile Tour that covers a different mile-long walk in the park each month, and a series of Tree Walks that help you learn about the many types of trees in Central Park while you explore the Great Lawn, the Bethesda Terrace area, 59th Street, the East Meadow, or the Upper West Side. Download self-guided walking tours of Central Park here.
The Free Official Central Park App is also useful for self-guided explorations. The GPS-enabled app provides an interactive map that will show you where you are located with in the park and what is nearby. The app also includes the Celebrity Audio Guide.
There’s also a free audio guide that provides celebrity commentary of some of the park’s most famous locations. You can access the audio guide with the Official Central Park App or via a special phone number. Lean more about the audio guide here.
The Central Park Conservancy pays for 75% of the park’s annual operating budget plus all maintenance and capital improvement costs, so if you enjoy Central Park and want to help support its continued maintenance, you might consider taking one of the paid tours or becoming a Central Park Conservancy member.
Paid tours provide in-depth explorations of specific areas of the park or about specific topics. See a full list of available tours here.